The Wilbury Group Announces its 2015/2016 Season

Providence's Little Theater That Could announces a season filled with world, state and regional premieres, plus a couple of kick-butt rock musicals.

The Wilbury Group is fast becoming one of my favorite regional theaters. Simply put, it's because I gave the tiny, five-year-old organization a chance. They were already doing the work  great stuff bursting with grit and bite. (Read our coverage of recent productions here, here and here.) It only took me four years to climb the stairs at the Southside Cultural Center and see it for myself.

Don't be the last to know. Here's the lineup for the Wilbury's sixth anniversary season, plus the inside scoop on each play from Josh Short, the theater's founding artistic director:


The show: Dry Land, a new play by Ruby Rae Spiegel, a twenty-one-year-old theater prodigy from Yale. The play takes place inside a high school girls’ locker room and was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in Drama.

Why it's Wilbury material: “I was sent this play last fall by one of the bigger theaters in town who felt that it was more ‘Wilbury’ than anything else and I fell in love with it immediately," says Short. "It’s a beautiful piece of work, and easily one of the most exciting and heartbreaking new plays that I’ve read in years. After its successful New York run we’re extremely lucky to be one of the first theaters in the country to produce it, and I think Providence audiences will respond to its incredibly human story.”


The show: Cain and Abel, a new play by Wilbury’s playwright-in-residence Ben Jolivet that's directed by Susie Schutt.

Why it's Wilbury material: We presented Cain and Abel as a staged-reading last fall and audience reaction was huge," Short says. "It’s the edgy, contemporary reimagining of a tale that we all think we know so well, and Ben’s brought these characters to life in such a way that for the first time the underlying themes of jealousy, love and seduction ring loud and clear.”


The show: Passing Strange, a rock musical that was developed at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab and premiered to rave reviews on Broadway in 2009.

Why it's Wilbury material: ““Passing Strange has been on my wish list of great plays I’d like to produce since the Wilbury Group was founded,” Short says. "As a jazz-blues style musical that’s outside anything we’ve done, every year for the past few years I’ve included it in drafts of the season lineup and then taken it out. This year though, with Brien [Lang] at the helm, we’re finally ready to give it the production it deserves.”


The show: The Rhode Island premiere of Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, which, according to the playwright, is "sort of adapted from The Seagull by Anton Chekhov."

Why it's Wilbury material: "“I think it’s a real challenge for theaters to produce Chekhov sans the preciousness that can keep audiences from relating to it," Short says. "Posner’s adaptation stays true to the story of one of Chekhov’s greatest works, while giving it the bite and verve that it warrants in a twenty-first-century production."


The show: The New England premiere of Murder Ballad, a play about a love triangle gone wrong by Julia Jordan and indie rock singer/songwriter Juliana Nash.

Why it's Wilbury material: “It’s smart, sexy and it’s a hell of a lot of fun," Short says. "It’s a play that’s written to be experienced so viscerally by its audience."


The show: The New England premiere of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem.

Why it's Wilbury material:Jerusalem is the quintessential Wilbury play to me; it demands excellent ensemble work, it’s as gritty as anything, and it balances comedy and pathos beautifully," Short says. "And like many of the plays that have been my favorite over the years, it’s a great challenge for a small company like ours to do.”


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